(Reuters) – Strikes and staff shortages forced airlines to cancel thousands of flights to avoid hours-long queues at major airports in the first summer following widespread COVID lockdowns, with disruptions set to continue deep into the autumn.
Here is a summary of some of the key developments:
After sweeping job and pay cuts when COVID-19 brought travel to a grinding halt, staff across the industry from pilots to baggage handlers are asking for big pay increases and better working conditions.
** European flights faced widespread disruption on Sept. 16 as a French air traffic controllers’ strike forced airlines to cancel half of those scheduled to arrive or depart Paris airports and others due to have flown over France.
Ryanair said the travel plans of 80,000 passengers had been affected as it cancelled 420 flights, mainly intended to fly over France.
** Ryanair’s Spanish cabin crew union members plan to strike from Monday to Thursday every week until Jan. 7 to press demands for higher pay and better working conditions.
** Lufthansa and pilots’ union VC reached a deal in a wage dispute on Sept. 6, averting a second strike after the first one forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights.
** EasyJet’s Spain-based pilots walked out for nine days in August from bases in Barcelona, Malaga and Palma in Mallorca.
Cabin crew in the country suspended a three-day strike planned for late July after reaching a deal with the carrier.
** SAS and Ryanair in July agreed terms with pilot unions, while British Airways and KLM signed deals with ground staffers.
** Norwegian Air in June agreed a 3.7% pay rise for pilots among other benefits.
SCHEDULE CUTS, CAPS ON PASSENGERS
Airlines including Lufthansa, British Airways, easyJet, KLM and Wizz Air cut thousands of flights from their summer schedules to try and ease disruption, while major airports including London’s Heathrow and Amsterdam’s Schiphol have extended caps on passenger numbers into autumn.
** Schiphol said on Sept. 29 it would reduce daily passenger numbers by around a fifth until at least March 2023. The airport is struggling to find a way to solve a shortage of security staff. Earlier in the month, Schiphol said it would reduce daily passenger numbers by 18% until at least Oct 31.
** Having previously cut its summer schedule and halted ticket sales for short-haul flights departing Heathrow until mid-August, British Airways said on Aug. 22 it would make further cancellations up to the end of October, after the airport extended its cap on passenger departures. It will also reduce its winter schedule by 8%, impacting around 10,000 flights.
** Meanwhile, London’s Gatwick airport said it would not extend limits on passenger numbers beyond August after it ramped up security staffing, while a Lufthansa board member has said the worst of the flight chaos was over for the airline.
HIRING AND INCENTIVES
Industry executives say it is hard to recruit for often physically demanding, relatively low paid work at airports often located out of town. Training new hires and getting them security clearance also takes months.
** Schiphol agreed to pay 15,000 cleaners, baggage handlers and security staff 5.25 euros ($5.25) extra per hour during the summer. It needed to hire 500 security staff after beginning the season with around 10,000 fewer workers than before the pandemic.
** Airport security company ICTS, which operates at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle, offered a one-off 180 euro bonus to those delaying their vacation until after Sept. 15 and 150 euros for staff who sign up new recruits, a CGT union representative said.
** Only around 150 airport workers from Turkey were hired by German airports, far fewer than initially expected. They will help with baggage handling under temporary contracts that will run through early November.
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(Reporting by Klaus Lauer in Berlin, Juliette Portala and Caroline Paillez in Paris, Toby Sterling in Amsterdam, Paul Sandle in London and Reuters bureaus; Compiled by Boleslaw Lasocki, Antonis Triantafyllou, Tiago Brandao and Marie Mannes in Gdansk; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Milla Nissi and Mark Potter)